Monday, December 19, 2011

The Greatest Czech Diplomat

by Drew Martin
The nice building on the left in the picture is the Náprstek Museum in Prague. The street on the right is Náprstek Street. I lived down that street, on the left - at the end, for my first eight months in Prague in 1992. This area used to be really run down even though it is home to the church where Jan Hus used to preach. I lived in a squat then and we used to come down to the abandoned buildings around the museum and strip them of things we could use. Náprstek means thimble but the museum and street are named after Vojtěch Náprstek (1826 - 1894) who was a Czech philanthropist, patriot and politician, as well as a pioneering Czech language journalist in the United States. The museum holds the collection of artifacts he gathered on his world travels. The first use of electricity in Prague was to light a whale skeleton he brought back from one expedition. Thomas Edison came to oversee the electrical work. I remember reading that Náprstek was considered Czech's greatest diplomat. While reading, thinking and writing about Vaclav Havel yesterday, I remembered him that way, as one of Czech's greatest diplomats.